Going All In
It’s amazing how many times and how many ways the Holy Spirit tries to get our attention. But, what’s more astounding, is the lengths some of us will often go to ignore Him.
Sometimes He whispers and sometimes it’s as if He is standing on the runway of life, trying everything to wave us down and get us to the right place. But how do we often respond? If you are like me, you sometimes look the other way and then come up with every excuse in the book for your state of total oblivion.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you,” you say, knowing full well both of you know that’s a lie from the pit of hell.
“I don’t have time right now,” you whine, knowing deep down that His timing is always perfect.
And, sometimes, you question Him or, worse yet, just downright ignore Him
We’re human. We all do it at some point. Some of us, more than others. But we are warned, this is a very dangerous practice, particularly when we do it for too long. For, if we do it too long, our hearts can become hard of hearing.
I cannot imagine forever living without the two-way communication we get when we accept Jesus and His Holy Spirit comes to reside in us. What comfort there is in knowing that we are never alone. No matter what is going on around us, He is there to guide us and give us wisdom, to protect us, to comfort us and to empower us to share our God-given talents and gifts with the people of the world so that they, too,
can see Him through us; so that they, too, will want to partake in the joy and power that comes from knowing Him.
In being completely transparent, I have been very sporadic in allowing the Holy Spirit to fully guide me during the tumultuous parts of my story that have unfolded over the past few years. Don’t get me wrong here, though, He has been with me every step of the way during this time, comforting me and giving me everything I need. Thankfully, no matter where we are, He is always all-in with us. The real beauty happens when we are all in, too!
This morning, as I breathe in all the peace and love that He has to offer me, I desire to bring myself to that same all-in status. I want to hear and feel every word He has for me; I want to embrace every bit of direction; every bit of promise and light and hope and joy and love.
Stop with me for a moment. Turn off all screens, close your eyes and breathe Him in. His breath is healing and full of abounding energy. It is rhythmic and melodious like a beautiful symphony. What’s that I hear? Ahhhh, it’s the clock keeping time, synchronizing its rhythm too. Oh, and the sweet birds outside the window are joining in the chorus.
What do you hear?
Breathe. Breathe. He loves us so much. Thank you, Lord.
Amen and Ehmen.
Grief exposed; Truth revealed
Though I know in my soul that God is in control, I can’t help but feel off-balance these days. In a two-week span, I lost a job and co-workers that I loved dearly followed by the loss of my dear mother, the last of my parents. Those who know me probably remember my father was murdered when I was a child.
And, so here I sit, an unemployed orphan. Maybe that sounds a bit melodramatic, but, even at almost 60 years old, there is really no world nor age group in which that doesn’t sting. A lot. As a caregiver for my mom for the past five or so years and as one who was deeply invested in the hospice volunteer program which I had built from the ground up, these life-altering events left me shell-shocked, particularly in the slow-crawling few days following mom’s funeral planning and funeral.
I nestled myself in the joy that radiates from my beautiful grandbaby for a couple of days, but when she was back at home with her mama and daddy, I was right back in the land of the lost. I know there is plenty I should and could be doing, but I feel stuck; suspended in time.
And, so here I still sit. An unemployed orphan trying my best not to feel sorry for myself; trying my best to not be anxious, but to cast all my cares upon the Lord, as today’s bible verse from 1 Peter, 5:7 so reminds.
I know that I know that the Bible is true and that God is with me no matter what. But, because of that, I have also been beating myself up about feeling sad and lost. I guess you could say I have been grieving grief. I began to wonder if sharing such raw feelings might make myself and others question my loyalty to and faith in God?
Fortunately, I was not allowed to wonder that for long as His beautiful still, small voice rang out not so quietly in my heart.
He reminded ever so gently that I should never hide my sadness or my grief or even my momentary feelings of being lost. Our Savior, was himself, as Isaiah 53:3 describes, a “man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.”
And He, in fact, cried. Not once; not twice, but three times in scripture, He cried. Look it up in John 11:35, Luke 19:41 and Hebrews 5:7-9. Each is near the end of His life and each shines a light on what matters most to our loving God. He is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” according to the writer of Hebrews 4:15.
It’s perfectly okay to grieve losses. It’s a part of being human. It’s okay to feel lost, as long as we don’t stay there forever and as long as we remember that we always have HOPE in the Lord. I may not be able to see the big picture yet, and I may still feel sad and worry, but in my heart of hearts, I know that I know that God is indeed in control and has a plan for me far better than any plan I could ever muster.
I also know that I should rejoice in the many blessings that surround me—praying friends and a praying, loving daughter and son-in law that have my back no matter what; a beautiful granddaughter to carry on my mom’s legacy and name; and, above all, a Father who calls me His child and wants only His BEST for me.
As far as the job, I don’t know exactly from where my next paycheck will come, but I KNOW Him and, just as He has always done, I KNOW He will come through, making sure I wind up in the place that I am needed most.
Thank you, God.
Thank you for the incredible memories of my mom and for the knowledge that she is finally out of her suffering and in Your Presence. And thank you for always, always standing in the gaps, no matter how wide they may seem to me. Nothing is impossible for You; nor for me when I walk with You. I love you, Father, and I am beyond thankful to be called Your child. I will never refer to myself as an orphan again, because I am not now nor will I ever be without You.
–Amen and Ehmen
Hummingbirds from Heaven
My mama loved hummingbirds. In fact, one of her very favorite pastimes was sitting in her recliner and watching as the little cuties dipped, dived, swooped and hovered while sipping the sweet nectar we prepared and put in the bird feeders hanging just outside her window.
She could tell you which little birdies were repeat visitors from previous years and which ones were new to the neighborhood. She could tell you which were the most aggressive and which were a little on the sweeter side like the nectar they enjoyed.
But, for me personally, perhaps the most memorable thing about my mother’s love for hummingbirds is the times when they were absent. I will never forget that day in May 2020. Like pretty much everyone on the planet, the pandemic was taking a toll on my mama, and she wanted nothing more than to see her beloved hummingbirds once again dancing in the air around the feeder. But, for some reason, sans the two that visited a few times that March when the feeder first went up, there had been no little bird visitors that year.
She was so disappointed, and I was disappointed for her. So, on the morning of May 15, 2020, as she sat sleeping in her chair, her face turned towards the window as if she had fallen asleep looking for her little friends, I began to pray and asked God to please send her a hummingbird to brighten her day.
Sure enough, just a few hours later, as I delivered her some lunch, she was beaming as she excitedly announced she had finally seen a hummer! Was it a coincidence? Absolutely not! That was all our loving Creator. When I told her about my prayer, she sat smiling for hours, a few tears of joy trickling down her cheeks. You could tell she felt His love. I did too
The birds disappeared again after that day, but I think that, too, was by design, giving Him another chance to show the two of us just how much He really cares about us. Fast forward to July of 2020. Mama had not been feeling good for several days and I was very worried. She had some cold symptoms and, of course, COVID was top of mind. So, as I was outside on my lawn tractor mowing the grass, I began to pray fervently.
I asked God for protection for her, for Billie and the sweet baby we had recently learned she was carrying, for my brother who was fighting cancer, and for me and all my family and friends. The pandemic had been so overwhelming. As I prayed, I also asked God if He could send us a sign that everything was indeed going to be okay. Then, I decided to be even more specific. I still remember the words that came from my heart: “Lord,” I prayed, “please let mom see a hummingbird. When I have asked before, You have always faithfully sent her one, so will you please send at least one more?”
I came back in the house and honestly forgot about it until the next day when I went into her room to check on her. As I stood in front of her asking what she wanted for breakfast, she began to grin from ear to ear.
“Oooooh, I forgot to tell you, I saw a hummingbird yesterday. It’s the first one I’ve seen since May,” she said. “It was just the one, but he seemed to really fill up at the feeder and hovered in front of the window for a while.”
I could hardly speak. This time tears rolled down my face as I told her about my prayer. We both felt Him whispering in our ears, “It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
Today, the day after we laid her to rest, I still hear those words, “It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
I love you, mama.
Saying Goodbye: One Year Later
As I stood outside this morning, I got a sense of déjà vu. My body did not move an inch, but my heart and mind whizzed through this past year to a day last November that looked pretty much just like today. The sky was clear and blue, and the air was just the right amount of cool.
The morning of your memorial, I remember leaning against my car and taking a few deep breaths, drawing in the peace that surrounded me. It was if nature itself was taking pause to salute your life. The leaves twisted and twirled to the ground, landing in silence. The birds held their whistles, and the squirrels and chipmunks treaded so softly across the leaves, you could almost hear their breath. The peace welled up from within and exploded without.
That same peaceful silence returned at your celebration of life service. Again, nature seemed to take pause to salute you just as the men dressed in their Navy blues slowly raised their white-gloved hands in patriotic gratefulness and reverence. Soft sniffles and cries became the audible sounds of hearts not ready to say goodbye and perfectly harmonized with the faint and gentle sounds of the water moving across the rocks in the river below. Your river. Your home. A pandemic may have caused the change of venue from the memorial chapel to the riverbanks of your own backyard, but I’m here to tell you it was absolutely perfect.
I can also tell you this, big brother. When the sound of that bugle began filling the silence with Taps, it was one of the most moving moments I have experienced in almost 60 years of life. The melodic notes that once signaled the end of the soldier’s day perfectly and gracefully signaled the time to symbolically lay you to rest. A silent hero, humble and true, your work on earth was now done and done well at that.
I know it has taken me a little while to be able to put pen to paper, but sometimes when something overwhelms me, it just has to marinate inside a bit. Today, the day before the anniversary of your passing, I want to say thank you, big brother, for being just that—a big brother. Thank you for standing up for me when I was too young to stand up for myself. Thank you for being there every single time I needed you as I became an adult. When life slapped me down, I always could count on you to help pick me back up. I hope I was able to do that for you in at least some small ways over the years. Thank you for opening up to me and for the special bond that we shared as adults. And thank you for being good-looking, especially since I am realizing more and more just how much we actually favor
Most of all, however, thank you for your heart and for your dedication and loyalty to your country and to your entire family.
It was not long after Gary died, that you were diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a frightening disease on its own, but completely devastating when combined with all the other health issues which had plagued you for decades, most of which were probably attributable to Agent Orange.
I watched from the sidelines as you fought like your life depended on it. Of course, your life did depend on it. But, IT wasn’t the real reason you did anything that you did. You fought these diseases with every fiber of your being, not for yourself, but for others, like your wife, and mama, both of who had already been battered by overwhelming loss.
You valiantly fought and bravely endured, just like you did on the blood-drenched soil of Vietnam.
Once a hero, always a hero, I guess.
I love and miss you, Stan. Save my seat at the table.
Red Rover, Red Rover…
God, I hear You calling and I’m trying desperately to catch up with You; to walk beside You, to synchronize my steps with Yours. But, I’m continually running into obstacles.
As if on cue from satan himself, out of the shadows step the demons of doubt, fear and deprecation. They stand in front of me and block my path, arms locked together as if to engage me in a game of Red Rover.
“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over,” they chide, demonic laughter filling the air and assaulting my confidence and my faith. I can’t help but shiver as their Goliath-sized shadows hijack the sun’s warmth as well as its light. It becomes a battle just to see.
And, yet, their purpose is dreadfully clear. They have come to intimidate, threaten, frighten, scare, bully, coerce, terrorize, daunt and taunt me; to keep me frozen in place and far away from the purpose that You prepared for me before the first word of Creation was ever uttered.
“Red rover, red rover, send Brenda right over.”
My mind starts to reel; to unravel like a runaway spool of thread. I can either run away and live the rest of my life knowing that I gave up on You or I can face this thing head on. I breathe deep and step back a few steps so that I can gain more momentum. There is no way I’m giving up, I mutter to myself. I will simply close my eyes and run with all my might, straight through their arms and into Yours.
But, oh sweet Lord, the growls of my opponents are becoming louder and more obnoxious. And, as much as I want to walk with You–to fulfill my purpose–I can’t help but notice how grotesquely strong they look. How on earth will ever be break their hold, I ask myself, and, with no immediate answer, I shrink back in defeat without ever taking a step.
Defeated. Beaten. Overwhelmed and overcome. I look down at my feet frozen in place as the enemies’ taunts crescendo in victory. They win. Again.
The only thing I have left now is to pray. But I don’t even know where to start. I am so ashamed that I once again let the enemy defeat me, to hold me back. With the words “I’m sorry, Lord” rising up through my spirit, I begin to hear a still small voice. It is a warm, familiar and very quiet voice, but still somehow louder than the enemy’s raucous heckling. I immediately recognize that it is You.
“Get up, child,” You whisper sweetly. “Get up, but don’t try to run with all your might; this time, child, run with Mine.”
Your words, gentle and powerful at the same time, send a surge of encouragement and pronounced strength coursing through my spirit, mind and body. I rise up into a crouch position just like that of an Olympic sprinter and, with the sound of cheering angels ringing in my ears, I open my eyes. I see the band of demons still outstretched before me and I see their mouths moving. It sure looks like they are still talking trash, but the words filling the air about me are beautiful, peaceful, encouraging.
“It’s over, It’s over, Brenda come on over.”
I can no longer contain myself and, even though I still see the demons, I take off running toward the beautiful sound. And, as I run faster and harder than I dreamed possible, the heavenly cheers grow louder and louder and the demons grow smaller and smaller until I finally burst though their evil stronghold with the fortitude and power of a wrecking ball.
I hold up my arms in victory and as the dust settles around me, I see You standing there in all your Glory. You smile a knowing smile. You’ve been here all the while; waiting on me; cheering me on.
Lord, thank You, for never giving up on me, even when I give up on You; for having faith in me, when my own faith waivers. Thank You for sending Your spirit to intervene when the enemy lines look too strong to break through and for helping me to stand firm when I feel weak. Thank you, Lord, for Your willingness to keep reminding me that, with Your help, I DO have the strength and power to run full steam ahead into Your will and purpose, for it is there that You dwell and it is there I wish to dwell also. With all that I am, I praise You. Amen and Ehmen.
Note: I hesitated to post this personal prayer journal entry from earlier this month, telling myself that it probably wasn’t of interest to anyone else. However, in reality, I think it was more that I was waiting to see if He would really show up as I set out to wholeheartedly seek His face; if He would really open the door when I knocked.
Spoiler alert: He DID!
Just as He always does and will again and again until the end of time, He SHOWED UP and SHOWED OUT and then some. My asthma is back under control; I am writing again; and the voice and miracles of the Holy Spirit have resumed. Woo Hoo! More on that in future blog posts. God is so very good, y’all. All the time, He is so very good. –Brenda.
August 5, 2019
Lord, I feel Your Presence this morning.
Actually, I’ve been becoming more and more aware of Your closeness over this past week or so. Thank you for sending the D-group Bible Study girls into my life. I see You working throughout the entire group and know that You are using each of us individually and together for great things.
Thank you, too, for the lady you sent to lay hands on me and pray for me in Lowe’s while standing in the air filter section. I know THAT was you. You knew I was struggling greatly with asthma, but she didn’t. She just showed up and the next thing I know she was speaking healing over me.
Give me the unyielding faith to BELIEVE that healing is already mine. I’m already feeling better. Keep me in this faith space, Lord.
Help me, too, to get back on track with my writing and to be obedient. I miss those times of miracles, just from listening to Your voice and following each prompting of the Holy Spirit. I want that again, Lord. I want YOU, Lord.
Your Word says ask and you will receive. I’m asking, Lord.
Your word says seek and you shall find. I’m seeking, Lord.
And, Your Word says, knock and it will be opened to you. I’m knocking, Lord. I’m ready to beat down the door, in fact.
I love you, God. With all that I am, I love You and praise You! Thank you for loving me without cease.
Amen and Ehmen.
And in my spirit, these are the words that I heard…
You are so very special to Me.
I wish that all of you knew just how much you mean to Me. You are each a pivotal part of all Creation.
I need you to understand that, Child. You are NOT an accident and you are absolutely NOT insignificant. You and everything that I purposed for You is critical in bringing My Kingdom to fruition.
You must take that seriously, Child, but don’t take yourself so seriously. There is a huge difference.
Stay in MY Presence. I’m always with you. Listen for My Voice at all times. Even when it does not make sense to you, be obedient.
This is the ONLY way you will ever move My Purpose for you along. You cannot do any of it alone, but you can and will do it with My help.
Oh, the journey we will take together, Child. You just don’t know. The joy. The love. The peace. The impact. It’s going to be GOOD, my dear one.
I can’t wait to share it with you.
Have a beautiful day and take the time to just breathe it all in. You are healed.
Father’s Day Feelings…
Writer’s Note: My dad was on the receiving end of a robber’s bullet many, many years ago, when I was just a little girl, robbing me of the opportunity to grow up with a father in my life. I have since forgiven the one who took him from us, but it still hurts, even all of these decades later…
I sit and stare at the photograph. Like my memories, it is faded. I just don’t seem to remember much. Black and white, shades of gray memories. I know you once existed in physical form, but, unfortunately, our life together was way too short; pretty much just a foreword, a preface to my own story.
Sometimes I wonder if I have blocked memories of my childhood, just because your untimely departure hurt so much. Because I know if I remember the good times then I will also have to remember how those good times ended. Those were dark days, even for an 8-year old whose most pressing decision was whether or not to climb the tree in the backyard. One day you were there and the next you were gone.
And even though my present mind sees our days together as a mere outline, like the beginning of a sketch without the details filled in, today, on this Father’s Day weekend, I sit here and FEEL a flood of memories. I FEEL your warmth as we cuddled up on the couch and watched Elvis movies AFTER my bedtime.
I FEEL your strength when you’d catch me as I leaped into your arms when you came home from work. Please forgive me if I ever hugged your neck too tight as I searched for that ever-present piece of gum in the pocket of your starched white shirt.
I FEEL your gentleness and compassion as—after being banished to my room to “just wait until your father gets home”—you arrived to lovingly correct me and, with the fluffy wallop of a pillow, forgave me of my transgressions.
I FEEL the pride I felt when I was up at “daddy’s work.” Yes, that was me that was always rummaging in your desk drawers for change for the coke and snack machines, and no, I still do NOT want a piece of the fruitcake you sold for the Civitan Club.
I FEEL thankful for all the family times, the vacations in Clearwater, Florida at the Sandlewood Hotel, the holidays, the dinners around the dining room table and all the moments for the eight years that we were together.
For though I don’t remember many of the details, I DO remember the FEELINGs of LOVE—feelings powerful enough to help me navigate through your most devastating and tragic departure; through the difficult years that followed as we tried to put our lives back together; through the many years and many milestones that would have been so much more with you there; all the way through today as I spend this Father’s Day weekend feeling memories made five decades ago; memories that turned into a life time of love.
Thank you, God, for my earthly dad and for this walk down memory lane.
But, most of all, God, I thank you for YOU and for your promise that one day my stroll down Memory Lane will bring me to Heaven’s Gate where I will once again have the chance to jump into my Daddy’s arms. Make sure you have Juicy Fruit. It was always my favorite.
Happy Father’s Day to you both. Amen and Ehmen!
Bereaving a bully
Earlier this week I read of yet another classmate’s untimely demise. The older I get, the more frequent these reports seem to come and my reaction is usually pretty much the same—a smorgasbord of emotions.
If the person knew Jesus, I find myself consoled, but still saddened for their loved ones. I then usually spend some time thinking about the good old days and, wonder how they could have possibly passed so quickly.
However, this week’s news did not spark a welcomed walk down memory lane at all. Quite the contrary, in fact.
My mind seemed hell-bent on traveling to a time some 45 years ago where hurtful words repeatedly hurled in a locker-adorned junior high hallway still echo deep inside.
What? Why does something that happened so long ago still linger in the recesses of my mind? Why, when I haven’t given it a thought it all these years, does the mere mention of a name bring it all back to the forefront?
The purpose of this is, by no means, to shame the unnamed or to defile her memory in any way. But, I do think it important to remind everyone to be careful what you say to others and to remind your kids to do the same. What you say does have the power to hurt another and to haunt them long after the words themselves have fallen silent.
Truthfully, at my age, it’s kind of embarrassing, to realize that I still harbor such feelings about someone I haven’t seen or talked to in four-plus decades.
But, now that I know, I have asked God to help me lay both to rest; to help me to forgive her just as He has forgiven me; to replace the negative memories her name evokes with a celebration of The Father’s unyielding grace and mercy.
Please, Father, I ask you to grant her family and loved ones peace and comfort during this difficult time and help me to look forward to a second chance at friendship when it comes my time to join You both in Heaven.
Amen and Ehmen!
All this time spent chasing peace. The wrong places. The wrong faces. A team of could have beens and should have beens that, in truth, would never be.
A world—both external and internal—rocked by evil and wrong, unfathomable madness and mayhem. So much needless strife and stress. Disappointment and failure. Physical and emotional strains and pains. Needless, but not pointless.
The fact is that it is in the useless that God finds value; in the meaningless that meaning and purpose is birthed. It is in the turmoil of life that we unearth peace; it is in uncertainty that we find faith and what was once exceedingly evasive is finally discovered lying dormant within.
Thank you, Jesus, for not only planting peace inside of our hearts, but for always, always standing guard so that no one and no thing can ever take it away—not even the loss of a job or a loved one that we thought would last forever. My friend Denny and I know this first hand. We have lived it before and are living it now. And it is good.
My prayer today is that you, too, wake the peace that slumbers within, giving all of yourself—your troubles and your victories—to the Prince of Peace, your Father and Mine, the Lord God Almighty.
He loves you and so do we! Amen and Ehmen.
More about Peace from Gotquestions.org:
The Bible has a lot to say about peace. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Paul refers to “the God of all peace” (Romans 15:13, 33; Galatians 6:16). The term peace is often used as a greeting and a benediction (see Luke 24:36). So what exactly is peace, and how can we have “inner peace”?
A word often translated “peace” in the Bible actually means “to tie together as a whole, when all essential parts are joined together.” Inner peace, then, is a wholeness of mind and spirit, a whole heart at rest. Inner peace has little to do with external surroundings. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He had also told His followers that “in this world you will have many troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). So peace is not the absence of trouble; it is the presence of God.
Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When the “God of all peace” comes to live inside a believing heart (1 Corinthians 6:19), He begins to produce His own characteristics in that life. Inner peace comes from knowing that circumstances are temporary and that God is sovereign over all (Isaiah 46:9–11). Peace comes from exercising faith in the character of God and His Word. We can have peace in the midst of challenges when we remember that “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can choose peace rather than give way to fear and worry. Inner peace resulting from a relationship with God allows us to keep things in proper perspective. We can accept difficult situations on earth by remembering that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
We are commanded to “live in peace” with others, as far as it is up to us (Romans 12:18; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 12:14). To live at peace means we interact with those around us in accordance with our own wholeness of mind. Our reactions to circumstances can bring peace to an otherwise chaotic situation. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). And James 3:18 says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” God’s desire is that we who know Him learn to live in peace within ourselves first. Then we can radiate that peace to others, bringing calmness and wisdom to tense situations, and in so doing be lights in the world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:14–15).